Names from Black History

February is Black History Month. Here is a list of name from African American history, to showcase their resilience and the imprints they have made and are still making on society. You might want to consider these when choosing baby names for your baby.

« Back to Baby Names Lists


Arthur Schomburg was a distinguished historian, and curator of the Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints for the New York City Public Library, and an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Arthur Fletcher was a member of the U.S. Commision of Civil Rights and is famous for coining the slogan for the United Negro College Fund, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."


Even though it was definitely frowned upon at the time, Benjamin Banneker made a place for himself in the late 1700s, as an astronomer, inventor, and mathmetician. He invented for himself a working clock that struck at the hour.


Three inspiring African-American Camilles include Camille Cosby, philanthropist and wife of Bill Cosby, sculptor Camille Billops, and actress Camille Yarbrough.


"Father of Black History," Dr. Carter G. Woodson, single-handedly spearheaded what would ultimately become Black History Month in 1926, though it was originally for just one week.


As a name, Cree hits all the right trends. It's a short, long-voweled unisex name with a rugged air. It is a Native American tribe, as well as the name of Cree Summer, actress and voiceover artist. It would be interesting to name a child after her, considering she does a lot of voiceover work on children's programming.


Do you know who the first American to lose his life in the American Revolution was? It was Crispus Attucks, a man widely accepted to have been of African and Native American descent.


Della Reese is a famous singer and actress. Della Reese is actually her stage name, a variant of her birth name, Delloreese Early, which is equally intriguing.


This Old English classic was borne by Edward Bouchet, the first African-American to receive a Ph.D from a U.S. University and by cofounder of Essence magazine, Edward Lewis.


You just can't beat jazz songbird, Ella Fitzgerald. Ella was #14 on the 2009 Social Security Administration list, and continues to be on the rise. It's not hard to see why- it is simple and to-the-point and has Ella Fitzgerald to back it up.


Frederick is name meaning "peace ruler" which is appropriate, considering these famous Fredericks: Frederick Gregory, astronaut, Frederick Patterson, founder of the United Negro College Fund, and Frederick Douglass, author, editor, abolitionist, and minister.


George means "farmer" which is interesting since it was farmers whom George Washington Carver's research most benefited. He was a botanist and chemist who did extensive studies on the uses of a variety of crops, such as peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes.


Oh glorious Gloria! Aside from its lovely meaning and sound, Gloria has an ample supply of talented African-American bearers, such as Dr. Gloria Randle Scott, an educator also known for being the first African-American to head the Girl Scouts of USA and also president of Bennett College from 1987 to 2001. If that's not enough, there's award-winning author Gloria Naylor and actress Gloria Foster.


Here's another double-duty name. Reverend Jesse Jackson is a civil rights leader and track-star Jesse Owens was an Olympic gold-medalist, famously annoying Adolf Hitler during the Berlin Olympics of 1931, by winning not one but four gold medals. By the way, Jesse was actually his nickname, his real name was James Cleveland Owens.


Josephine Baker is an interesting individual. She was a dancer, singer, and actress, the first African-American actress to star in a major motion picture. She joined in the Civil Rights Movement, and Ernest Hemingway said she was "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw."


In 1761, when the poem "An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries" was printed, Jupiter Hammon because the first African-American to be published in the United States.


Leontine, a name that sounds positively powerful. Leontine Kelly was the first African American woman elected bishop in the United Methodist Church and Leontyne Price is a much-lauded opera soprano.


What list of famous African Americans would be complete without the talented poet laureate Maya Angelou? The name Maya is popular at the moment, parents undoubtedly being inspired by Angelou, as well as the name's lovely sound. It is generally pronounced MY-ah, but some choose MAY-ah instead.


Dr. Niara Sudarkasa is a busy lady! She is a noted scholar, educator, and anthropolgist, and holds over 13 honorary degrees. She was the first African-American woman to teach at Columbia University and the first woman to be president of Lincoln University.


Dr. Ralph Bunche worked his way from valedictorian of his high school class, to then again of his graduating UCLA class, and he eventually earned a master's and a doctorate at Harvard. He was the first African American to receive a Ph.D in political science from an American university. Oh, and did I mention he also was the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize?


This exotic gem is borne by prominent author and folklorist, Zora Neale Hurston. She has been inspirational to many African-American writers, such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.